One of many themes rising right here within the early going of the 2023 MLB season is the overarching dominance of the AL East. This has brought on many to surprise if the playoff format needs to be modified and likewise to start out looking forward to potential realignment.
As noted in this week’s power rankings, the complete division is basically taking part in like one of the best crew in baseball. The up to date report proper now for AL East groups after they do not play one another is an absurd 99-49. The 5 groups are collectively taking part in like a 108-win crew exterior the division. Ridiculous.
These wins have to return from someplace and the ripple impact has ended up leaving the AL Central wanting fairly horrible. Solely the Twins have a successful report and they’re precisely .500 exterior their division. The division as an entire is a pathetic 32 video games below .500.
It is too early within the season to start out intently monitoring playoff place within the standings each day, however for the needs of this dialogue, here is how the American League playoffs would presently look by way of seeding:
1. Rays (AL East champ)
2. Rangers (AL West champ)
3. Twins (AL Central champ)
5. Blue Jays
If we lined everybody up by successful share, although, here is how it could look:
1. Rays, 32-12, .727
2. Orioles, 28-15, .651
3. Rangers, 26-17, .605
4. Blue Jays, 25-18, .581
5. Astros, 24-19, .558
6. Yankees, 25-20, .556
t7. Red Sox, 24-20, .545
t7. Twins, 24-20, .545
The Crimson Sox and Twins have performed a collection in opposition to one another and the Crimson Sox took two of three, so which means with utilizing tiebreakers, the Twins entered Thursday basically ranked eighth within the American League if we dropped divisions. And but, they’d maintain the three seed proper now by advantage of being one of the best crew within the worst division in baseball.
If issues stayed precisely like this (trace: they will not), the Yankees could have been screwed out of a playoff spot whereas the Crimson Sox would have a serious gripe as properly. In any case, the AL East has 5 of the highest seven information within the league.
Provided that the schedule is extra balanced nowadays, we’re sure to see stuff like this pop up when there are weaker and stronger divisions simply primarily based on the ebbs and rosters of roster development. It is not new to have a state of affairs the place the divisional alignment units issues up that really feel unfair. The 2015 NL Central had the three greatest information in baseball. Two of them needed to face off within the Wild Card Recreation and the winner of that received to see the division champ within the NLDS, that means there was no probability for 2 of the three greatest groups in baseball to even make the LCS spherical merely primarily based on playoff format. Keep in mind the 1993 NL West? The Giants received 103 video games and did not even make the playoffs.
These are simply two excessive examples of many over time. We may go on and on. It has occurred repeatedly.
Nonetheless, nowadays, followers and media like to debate what modifications should be made to make issues extra truthful and leagues then try to rectify such perceived injustices. It is not misplaced on me that this dialogue will get hotter and warmer the longer the Yankees and Crimson Sox are the 2 groups within the positions they’re (as a substitute of, say, the Orioles and Rays).
The straightforward reply to the cries that the Yankees and Crimson Sox will presumably be screwed out of a playoff spot by format is to easily that they need to end within the high three of their division. Or, extra succinctly: Be higher and win extra video games. If individuals wish to change the format, it should not be as a result of particular groups being unnoticed and as a substitute needs to be to enhance how the playoffs as an entire shake out.
And although I am undecided there’s an precise downside, if we needed to debate “options,” right here they’re.
1. Eradicate divisions
I am a robust “no” on this one, however I’ve seen some motion for it. The speculation right here could be that the schedule is much more balanced now anyway and that makes divisions much less necessary. As such, if there weren’t divisions and easily two 15-team leagues, we would get a greater concept of which groups had been one of the best and most-deserving playoff groups.
The largest concern right here is the schedule is just “extra balanced” and never 100% balanced. With 30 groups taking part in 162-game schedules, it is by no means going to even out and if a schedule must be concentrated in a single space, I like how they’ve arrange the chance for rivalries to emerge on a regional foundation. Even when they modify (maintain that thought), I nonetheless assume divisions are wanted for the scheduling portion.
2. Go by greatest report for playoff seeding
Look again above to the second set of standings I listed, which was mainly the AL standings as an entire. If we ignored divisions and simply took one of the best six groups — which actually looks like a good suggestion in a meritocracy — that might be how issues lined up at current.
The issue right here is that if you are going to have divisions, you’d presumably be ignoring the division winner for the playoffs. If that is the case, why even have divisions within the first place? In order that places us again as much as the highest choice in eliminating divisions.
That is the place I will once more level out that we have survived divisional injustices many instances previously and we’ll survive it once more. I am not keen to scrap divisions fully or simply ignore them in playoff seeding as a result of two high-profile groups could not end within the high three in one of the best division.
I have been requested a number of instances these previous few weeks about realignment. The issue is I simply do not know the way it’s potential to realign the divisions proper now. The position within the American and Nationwide Leagues, respectively, was pretty arbitrary, however many have come to carry the league of their favourite crew sacred. I do not wish to mess with that, not MLB-wide. The divisions are already arrange regionally inside every league, too, so how would we realign?
Would we be making an attempt to steer groups into the “proper” place to make the playoffs appear “truthful?” How would that work transferring ahead? Will we simply shuffle the groups earlier than every season primarily based upon how good we expect they’re going to be and attempt to apportion them with one thing like two playoff groups, one fringe contender and two sub-par groups per division? We will try this yearly and even revisit it each three? I do know it sounds outlandish, however I am laying it out like this to make a degree. Many of the realignment discuss, to me, is reactionary to how the AL standings look proper now.
It is simply laborious to see something on this space being real looking proper now.
Nonetheless, here is the right reply:
4. Keep the course for now
Proper now, nothing modifications. Once more, divisional inequities have been occurring since divisions had been applied. It is simply a part of the deal. We’ll find yourself with good groups being unnoticed and the 87-win Phillies successful the NL regardless of ending 14 video games behind two totally different groups in their very own division within the common season. Stuff occurs. Generally that is what makes it enjoyable.
Now, for these pining for modifications: Issues will find yourself altering in some unspecified time in the future within the relatively-near future, I predict.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has made it clear that MLB will not be pursuing large modifications till the A’s and Rays ballpark points are resolved. The A’s seem to be moving toward a conclusion. The Rays’ lease for Tropicana Subject with St. Petersburg runs by means of 2027 and talks have been ongoing, so let’s simply assume issues are resolved by then.
As soon as issues are firmed up with new ballparks for each of these groups, the huge assumption is Main League Baseball will broaden by two groups.
Enlargement to 32 groups means it is easy to go together with two leagues of 16 groups and 4 divisions of 4 in every league. Or possibly they go together with bigger divisions of eight (I doubt it, however it’s potential).
There’s your realignment.
Till then, everybody frightened concerning the one or two AL East groups with a successful report being unnoticed within the chilly for the postseason will simply must, frankly, suck it up and cope with it. We have survived such — please notice dripping sarcasm — travesties previously and we’ll survive this time round, too.